“I would like to be more prolific in being able to explore some personal things about myself. I’ve been really guarded most of my life,” filmmaker Adria Petty responds speaking of her series of shorts. Petty–yes, as in Tom Petty’s daughter–is someone who seems to be most comfortable with language in its figurative sense. It’s a personal dialect more native than talk. Her producer fittingly describes it as her “abstract alphabet.” That would explain her attraction to music videos and her espousing of fashion’s inherently visual agenda. Her filmography bounces from artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna and longtime-friend Regina Spektor, to beauty spots for Lancôme. Recently, Adria joined Cadence’s roster of image makers as well as Missing Pieces, two New York City based artist reps.
“Relentless” is the second chapter of Adria’s personal autobiographical short films, which she filmed while (very) pregnant with her daughter Everly (named after her father’s guitar). The first being “NU-6” and was a dreamlike documentation of her oddly emotional experience receiving an auditory test after temporarily losing her hearing. “Every word that they would ask me about would bring up this flood of thoughts and visual things and I was in this little soundproof cube that looked like a ‘50s bomb-shelter,” she explained. “Relentless” inwardly-looking explores Adria’s nebulous relationship with Everly’s father. For both nearly wordless films there’s an emphasis on personal disorientation that pivots on Adria’s eccentric edits. That playful sensibility creates her signature visual mischief.
Adria is a long-time New Yorker who resides in the East Village, so we sat down with her at Cafe Mogador to discuss her work. Debuting exclusively on Models.com, here is Adria Petty’s short film “Relentless”.
I read an article that you were selling your NYC apartment but this was back in 2012. But you didn’t end up selling it. You’re still there?
I ended up having a baby and not being quite as footloose and fancy free as I was before she arrived. I feel very connected with NY. I would like to move but I’m very attached to the neighborhood and my home. I’m kind of looking for the right place before I move.
How has having a child changed NYC for you?
I just look forward to sharing it with her at every stage of her development because I love New York so much and I love my friends here so much that I just am excited for her to have that cultural impact and the kind of joy that I get from my friends who are my family here.
You traveled a lot when you were younger I imagine. Has that influenced the way you live your life–do you like to travel still?
Oh yeah I traveled all the time. I like traveling. I feel really inspired by people and places. Connecting with new experiences. A lot of people who are the children of musicians and raised on the road, also I think children of directors and actors, you get used to not having that stability. That actually becomes your stability.
Is there a particular idea that you always find yourself exploring? Even if you’re not thinking about it–saying, “oh here it is again”?
Falling. I think falling and people falling through some void. I find that image a lot in my work. It’s a sort of idea of the world out of control, but it’s safe. It’s a safe fall. It’s more like “Alice in Wonderland” falling down the rabbit hole. That idea of falling down the rabbit hole and embracing the chaos theory. I think the chaos theory is at the heart of the creative work I do, that there is sort of an amalgam of influences between the conscious and unconscious mind that pushes forward all the time.
What inspired Relentless?
What was heavy on my mind was this relationship with Everly’s father, which is to this day just this completely undefinable and strange chemistry that I can’t say it’s good or it’s bad. It’s just the torture of romance. I think I just wanted to put it into some art form and convey what had happened there and how consuming and intoxicating that experience had been. And so I think I did. I think I did in my own cartoony way.
And you shot Relentless at the tail end of your pregnancy?
Yeah I shot it when I was pregnant a year ago, right before Everly was born.
So you were 8 months pregnant and decided to shoot?
I needed to shoot something, I felt really like I knew I wasn’t going to be able to for at least six more months, which wasn’t true, I actually shot my first commercial when Everly was two months old. I felt antsy that I needed to get behind the camera and say something about the experience that I’ve been through in the last year which was just really far out, you know?
Did you finish it before you had Everly?
No I didn’t edit it until about six months until after she was born. I was busy, we traveled all over the world last year.
When you did NU6 first did you intend to continue this on as a continuation?
Absolutely. I absolutely feel looking at Relentless that it’s a perfect next chapter of sort of what happens next. I’m sort of battling with finding some terra firma.
Have you already started thinking of your next one?
I have thought a little about the next one. I would like to be more prolific in being able to explore some personal things about myself. I’ve been really guarded most of my life. I felt I haven’t wanted to share that much and the truth is I’m such a sensitive person, but also such a deeply insensitive person in some ways. I can be very blunt and simple and direct about what I want. On the flip side, people like that they are actually very sensitive. I think now there’s definitely a higher level of sensitivity opened up in me in becoming a mother and it’s going to be fun to explore it creatively.
If you could paint with only one color, what color would that be?
Blue. I think my favorite color is probably purple. But blue inspires me, it uplifts me. Sometimes I’ll see a blue house or a blue car and feel uplifted by it. I think it’s a very beautiful color like a Chagall watercolor. I think blue is a very expressive color.
Is Chagall someone you like a lot? People flying through the air seems appropriate . . .
I love Chagall. And I associate him strongly with the architect Antoni Gaudí–those kind of shapes and fragments. The surrealism I feel connected to.